Trump appears to have folded in the shutdown showdown, if the latest Fox News interview by Sarah Sanders is any indication. Sarah suggested that Trump will find the funding by other means; what those means are is not clear, and it’s always a possibility that Trump will outright contradict Sarah Sanders on twitter, as is his wont.
If Trump has actually thrown in the towel, he’s made a mistake. He bought the rhetoric of the media and the Democrats that both say Republicans would be to blame for the shutdown. The media always, always, blames Republicans for shutdowns, regardless of which party holds the presidency and how reasonable their demands might be. Trump didn’t help his case, of course, when he decided to have an impromptu debate with Schumer and Pelosi, and preemptively took responsibility for the shutdown. Trump shouldn’t have said “I will be proud to shut down the government,” he should’ve said “I will not sign any bill that does not provide funding for the border wall,” and then gone on to the usual shtick about how we need to stop the crime and so on. He decided to put the blame on himself, but it is by no means obvious that the blame should be on him. He could have very well made the argument that it is unreasonable to sign a bill that spends billions and billions on all manner of things except border security, and that the obstinence of the Democrats in opposing the wall puts the responsibility on them.
That being said, the right move is still for Trump to force the issue. You can see the rage bubbling on social media over Trump’s failure to follow through on the wall. It was his defining campaign promise and so far, we’ve seen nothing but “prototypes” and small expansions of existing fences. Remember, Trump said “we will build a wall, and Mexico will pay for the wall.” Some of Trump’s diehard supporters were convinced that Mexico would actually, literally pay for the wall; that is now recognized as extremely unlikely. So that half of Trump’s main promise is now broken. If Trump is unable to fulfill the other half of his promise, his re-election will become far more difficult – particularly if his base recognizes that he squandered opportunities to force the issue, like the one in front of him right now. It would have been good politics for Trump to refuse any bill that does not provide his requested $5 billion in wall funding. Personally, I think the wall is a dumb idea, and is basically just a PR strategy - but $5 billion is a very modest figure, and the only real reason Democrats oppose it is because they would be in political trouble if they supported it. The amount of money isn’t the problem, it’s what the money is being spent on.
As of this writing, PredictIt puts the probability of a government shutdown before Christmas at 18%. The President has made a mistake by allowing the Democrats to dictate the narrative, and his supporters might very well punish him for it.
2020 Democratic Odds
Here are the odds for the 2020 Democrat nominee on PredictIt.
Beto O’Rourke: 22%
Joe Biden: 19%
Kamala Harris: 17%
Bernie Sanders: 15%
Amy Klobuchar: 9%
Cory Booker: 8%
Elizabeth Warren: 7%
Kirsten Gillibrand: 6%
Republicans should hope these figures are wrong. Beto is an extremely charismatic and talented politician and would be a very effective counter to Trump. A point of interest is that Bernie Sanders, despite universal name recognition, is ranked #4. It’s hard to see what Sanders offers the party that can’t be found in other candidates, except fulfilling the Sanderistas’ revenge fantasies from 2016.